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Animal Rescue Team: Show Time
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Animal Rescue Team: Show Time

Written by Sue StauffacherAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sue Stauffacher
Illustrated by Priscilla LamontAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Priscilla Lamont



· Knopf Books for Young Readers
· eBook · February 8, 2011 · $5.99 · 978-0-375-89794-8 (0-375-89794-1)
Also available as an unabridged audiobook download and a trade paperback.

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Chapter 1
Keisha Carter was crawling across the kitchen floor, trying to catch her little brother Paulo, when a cold swirl of outside air blew up under her sweater.
"Look at the snow in the glow of the streetlights, everybody." Daddy pulled Mama to him and gave her a quick kiss. "It looks like a snow globe."
"Brrrrrr . . ." Keisha caught Paulo's ankle and gave him a kiss, too.
Mama rubbed Daddy's back. "Our truck is out in all that snow. I'll get the broom."
"Snow," Keisha told Paulo, pointing out the door.
"Rocket," he replied, pointing in the opposite direction as their puppy skittered down the steps.
"Daddy, you should close the door before--"
But Keisha was too late.
Paulo threw himself flat on the linoleum just in time to avoid a collision as Rocket bounded over the youngest Carter, then sailed through the doorway and out into the snowy white world.
"Hookey-hookey!" Paulo cried with a little scream of delight as he scrambled over to the doorway on his hands and knees to get a better look.
"Yep. He's doing the hoochie-coochie." Keisha caught the back of Paulo's sweater before he could launch himself out the door.
Rocket was on his back, shimmying in the new-fallen snow.
"That dog." Mama tsk-tsked, but she couldn't keep from smiling. Rocket was a cross between a coyote and a dog. The Carters owned him because he didn't fit in the wild OR the world of humans. He stalked prey and howled like a coyote, but he also loved humans like a domestic dog. Ever since the first big storm in December, he had demonstrated his wild side by rolling, burrowing and playing in the snow.
"All the girls in France do the hoochie-coochie dance, and the way they shake, it's enough to kill a snake." Keisha's six-year-old brother, Razi, step-tapped down the last two stairs and across the kitchen floor.
"Razi Carter," Mama scolded. "Did you hear that kind of talk on the playground?"
"No. Grandma taught me."
The puppy's head popped up out of a snowdrift, and Keisha could see that his perky ears and the ruff of fur that circled his face were now frosted with snow.
"I wish Grandma was here with her camera," Keisha said.
"Grandma is catching up on her beauty sleep." Daddy glanced at the clock. "But I need to go." He pulled on his coat and gathered his supplies.
The volunteers at Blandford Nature Center had asked Daddy to teach a class on repairing turtle shells at their annual Back-to-Nature Conference. He set off down the back steps, his arms filled with plaster shells, drills and screws.
Mama took the broom out of the closet. "I'll get Rocket and help Daddy with the truck. Razi, can you carry out the muffins? Without dancing?"
Mama couldn't send Daddy off to his first teaching job without food for the students. Growing up in Nigeria, Mama's family shared food as a way to show courtesy and to make friends. Daddy said it was one of the things he liked most about Mama--her friendly food.
"Can I wear the oven mitts?" Razi asked.
"You have to. The tins are still warm."
"Can I wear them to school?"
"We'll see." Mama and Razi put on their coats. She was just about to follow her son out the back door when the office phone rang.
"I'll be there in a minute," Mama instructed Keisha. "Go ahead and answer it. Razi, I want you right back at the kitchen table after your delivery."
"C'mon, Paulo." Keisha took Paulo's hand and pulled him along into the office. She picked up the phone. "Carters' Urban Rescue," she said in her grown-up voice.
"No, no! The copier in the main office. The documents are there. Uh, sorry about that," a man's voice said into the receiver. "Can I speak to Fred? I'm an old friend. Bill Fox."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Fox. He just left." Keisha tugged on Paulo's hand. He was trying to get the stapler again.
"When will he be back? Sometime today?"
"Not until late, he said."
"That won't work. Darn it. The president wants someone on this today."
"Can I help? I'm his daughter. Is this about an animal?"
"Ummm . . . animals. Yes. About fifty of them. Maybe 150. Why they are my responsibility, I couldn't tell you. I'm the Director of Human Resources, not Animal Resources. You'd think this would fall under Groundskeeping or Physical Plant or Pest Control. Melissa!" he shouted, causing Keisha to almost drop the phone. "Do we have a Pest Control Department?"
Keisha pulled out an intake form. "I'm sorry, Mr. Fox. I'm not sure I understand. What kind of animals?"
"Squirrels are taking over the campus here at Mt. Mercy College. They're frightening the students and making the nuns jumpy and, besides that, they're messy. Ms. Pontell, the president's secretary, just stormed into my office to inform me that his new Persian rug has teeny-tiny black walnut stains all over it . . . in the shape of paw prints! And I'm supposed to take care of it."
"The rug?"
"No, the squirrels."
It didn't help that Paulo had given up on the stapler and was now after the calculator. Keisha pushed all the office equipment out of Paulo's reach.
"So I thought, I'll call Fred. He'll know what to do."
The back door slammed, and Keisha could see Mama holding a glistening Rocket and swatting the snow off her skirt.
"My mom will know what to do, too," she told Mr. Fox. "I'll go get her."
"What do you mean it needs more toner? I just put in a new cartridge. That's impossible. . . ."
Since Mr. Fox was already busy, it seemed like a good time to put the phone down. "Mama," Keisha said when she'd reached the kitchen. "There's a man on the phone who says he's Daddy's friend and the president wants him to take care of the fifty squirrels--or maybe 150--that are causing trouble over at Mt. Mercy and causing black walnut stains to get on the Persian rug."
Mama held out a dripping puppy to Keisha. "Fifty squirrels on a Persian rug?"
Keisha shrugged. It didn't make sense to her, either.
Rocket could wiggle his bottom and moan even when Mama was holding him in the air. Keisha grabbed an old towel from the basket by the back door and held out her arms.
"Oops. I left Paulo in the office. He was heading for the printer."
"All right, Ada," Mama said, using the nickname that meant "eldest daughter" in Mama's native language, Igbo. "Clean up this dog, eat your muffins with Razi and check his hands when he's done."
Keisha finished rubbing Rocket dry as Mama hurried down the hall to speak to Mr. Fox. Then she sat down in her chair, broke off a piece of banana nut muffin for herself and looked over at Razi, who, in about thirty seconds, had managed to become crumb-covered. Razi licked his fingers and pressed them to the crumbs on his plate, all the time tapping his feet on the floor.
"Razi, your tapping is shaking the table."
"I have to learn my steps. We're going to practice on the stage today."
"Can't you just think about them?"
"No." Razi continued to tap.
Keisha decided to focus on the warm, banana-y muffin in her mouth and not her brother. She was on her second muffin when Mama returned to the kitchen, put Paulo in his high chair and sat down next to him.
"That man needs to focus on one thing at a time," she said, tying on Paulo's bib.
"Can you help him, Mama?"
"I'm sure we can, but it's not an emergency. Your father is busy all day, and I promised Razi's teacher I would help her work on the costumes for the mid-winter show. We don't cancel our plans when it's not an emergency. We schedule an appointment."
"What about Grandma? We could go after she picks me up from jump rope practice."
"Grandma. Hmmmm . . ." Mama bit into a piece of muffin that Paulo held out for her. Paulo loved to feed Mama. It made him feel like a big boy. "Good idea, Ada. I will call him back and tell him that you and Grandma will come over this afternoon."
Keisha stared at her plate. Mentioning jump rope practice had made her lose her appetite. It was a big year for the Grand River Steppers jump rope team. Coach Rose called Keisha and her best friends, Aaliyah and Wen, the backbone of the team, as the oldest and most experienced jumpers. This year, they had a chance to win first place in their school district, which meant they would go to the district regionals in Detroit! And the team would stay overnight in the Renaissance Center hotel. The Steppers team went six years ago and they stayed on the sixty-fifth floor. They could see Canada!
Keisha and her friends had never stayed in the Renaissance Center hotel before. Marcus, Jorge, Zeke and Zack had all tried out for the team just in case they won a chance to go. Marcus and Jorge made the team because they'd both been in boxing club over the summer, so they were already good speed jumpers. Zeke and Zack Sanders didn't make the team. They were twins, and Grandma said one got both left feet and the other got both right feet. But Mama said not to repeat that.
Everyone agreed single freestyle was the hardest event, but Keisha loved it because you got to do dancing and gymnastics while you jumped rope. In freestyle, jumpers worked hard to make tricks look easy. Good freestylers could flow between one trick and the next, making as few mistakes as possible. Keisha loved the creative part of designing freestyle routines and picking out the dance music. It was so much better than boring speed jumping, which she usually placed in, too (though Aaliyah always beat her).
Last year at their school district tournament, she'd been the top placer in single freestyle. That was why Coach Rose had high hopes for Keisha in fifth grade.
But the more people talked about how good she was, the more uncomfortable she felt. The point was Keisha didn't want to be the backbone! She wanted to be the pinky finger.
She watched Razi happily tip-tapping in his chair, licking his fingers like a cat.
Oh, to be in first grade again and not care whether you messed up or not.
In their last meet, against Cesar Chavez Elementary, Keisha had messed up twice during speed jumping and twice during her freestyle routine. Even though she jumped alone, her score counted toward the team's total points. Coach Rose had patted her on the back and told her it was okay, everybody had a bad day. But Keisha knew she'd let the team down. The problem was, she jumped fine in practice. She knew her routine in her sleep, but in front of all those people . . .
"Razi, do you ever get scared when you are up on stage?"
Razi stopped licking. "No! I like it. Wanna see my kabibble?" He jumped down from his chair and stood in front of Keisha, his shoulders back and his chin high. "Ms. Allen and Ms. Perry say you have to smile the whole time." Razi put on a big smile. He started moving his feet . . . slowly at first, then faster and faster. His feet were all over the place, but the top of his body stayed still. Keisha watched her little brother, her chin resting on her fist. She wondered how a kabibble would look in a freestyle routine.

"Want to see a 'kabibble'?" Keisha asked her friends Wen and Aaliyah that afternoon at the end of practice.
"Kabibble?" Wen pushed herself up. They'd been lying on the mats like a bunch of rag dolls, breathing hard because they'd just practiced their speed jumping.
"It looks something like this." Keisha stood and tried to imitate the step-tap combination Razi was doing that morning. "I was thinking . . ." She grabbed a jump rope. Instead of swinging it the way she did to jump, she kept the two ends in one hand and slapped the rope on the floor as she tried to imitate Razi's dance step. This was how the girls invented new moves for freestyle jumping.
Aaliyah stood up, too. She held out her hand to Wen and pulled her to her feet. The girls watched Keisha for a moment, trying to memorize the step. Keisha could get in a step and a tap between every fwap of the jump rope.
As the girls experimented, Coach Rose walked through the gym, talking to each team member about what they needed to focus on for their upcoming meet against C. A. Frost Elementary.
"Wen, have you been using that new wrist action we talked about?" Coach Rose made twirling motions with his fists.
"Trying." Everyone knew how hard it was to change the way you jumped. Coach Rose was working with Wen to better her speed-jumping times. "I start out doing it the way you showed me, but once I get going, I forget."
"Practice it in your head. You'll make the transition. Your feet are faster than your hands, and it should be the other way around. Oh, and, Keisha . . ."
Keisha twisted the ends of her jump rope, waiting. "Have you tried that synchronized breathing technique I taught you?"
Keisha nodded her head "yes," but she didn't look at Coach Rose.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of." He tilted Keisha's chin up so that they were looking at each other. "Everyone messes up, Keisha. Synchronizing your breath to your steps will help you focus on the job at hand . . . not on being nervous."
Keisha swallowed hard. If only people didn't talk about it so much!
"Don't worry, Key." Wen patted Keisha's back after Coach Rose left them. "You never had trouble before this year. You'll get your groove back."

Chapter 2
Even Grandma had to bring it up. After practice, she and Keisha took the number 17 bus over to the Mt. Mercy campus. Mt. Mercy was the biggest piece of "not city" in the city--even bigger than Riverside Park--so the Carters often got calls about wild animals from people who lived next to the campus. The grounds were filled with beautiful old trees of all kinds--black walnuts, elms, sugar maples. The Carter family had picnics there at least once every spring and fall, when the leaves looked their prettiest.
"So did you get those problems with your routine all fixed up?"
"Grandma, there's no problem with my routine. The only problem was that I messed up."
"I don't know if I would go so far as tha--"
Keisha stared out the window. "I got tangled twice during speed jumping and twice during my freestyle routine. I could do that routine in my sleep in fourth grade!"
"Keisha. Sweetie . . . take a cleansing breath." Grandma inhaled deeply, pressing her back into the bus seat and exhaling noisily through her nose. A lady with a shopping bag full of groceries on her lap turned to stare.
"Grandma, people are looking."
"Well then, let them learn something about the importance of the breath. Deep cleansing breath in . . ." Grandma blew out again . . . just as noisily. "Five . . . six . . . seven . . . releasing the tension . . . letting go of all the nervous energy . . ."

Excerpted from Animal Rescue Team: Show Time by Sue Stauffacher; illustrated by Priscilla Lamont Copyright © 2011 by Sue Stauffacher. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.